By Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs
I’ve had a bit of a frustrating start to my participation in the Road Charge Pilot Program, but I remain hopeful that it will be resolved shortly so I can actually participate in the program. Below is a timeline of my first week, in preparation of the actual launch of the program on July 1st.
June 29 – I received in the mail the Azuga device that will plug into my vehicle and wirelessly report my mileage. I hadn’t requested a device that uses GPS (I had a choice when I enrolled), but I admit that there was a small twinge of anxiety as I opened the box and saw this little green electronic device, just waiting for me to plug it in.
I understand the privacy concerns raised by many regarding the government tracking my miles, but I have also had many conversations with Malcolm Dougherty, Director of Caltrans, and trust that the Road Charge Task Force will, in fact, do all they can to protect my private information, as the government does with other information collected, including addresses, social security numbers, drivers license information, etc… Furthermore, with my smartphone, I use Strava GPS to track my runs, WAZE to tell me how to beat the traffic to work and Uber when I am out of town but need to get around. I’m already being tracked (and, odds are, so are you if you use smartphone applications).
Still, I made the decision not to give Azuga and the state of California the ability to locate my vehicle during this pilot program.
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The little green device came with simple instructions, and I was intent on following them accurately and perfectly….
My excitement for the Road Charge Pilot Program took a turn however, after I plugged the device in the OBDII port (step 1 was easy!). After multiple attempts, I couldn’t get the device to pair with whatever it was supposed to connect to. I called the Azuga team twice, in fact, to ensure I was installing it correctly.
I closely followed the Azuga representative’s instructions. I drove around my block, to give the device opportunity to find the cell phone tower. I waited for the Azuga representative to call me back, per his direction.
I probably spent two hours of my life trying to get everything situated for the pilot program but couldn’t get it done. The Azuga representative never called me back either.
June 30 – The pilot program begins tomorrow and I’m starting to get nervous. I want to make the most of this adventure, and I want to start tracking my mileage along with the other participants.
I tried multiple times to sync the device to the network and remain unsuccessful.
July 1 – The pilot program has begun and after two more phone calls to the Azuga representative, I am still not connected and able to participate. To be honest, I’m irritated. I’ve been told that Azuga can and will manually sync my device within 24-48 hours and that I will be kept informed.
July 2 – I am still not connected.
July 3 – I am still not connected.
July 4 – I am still not connected. And the Azuga representative never called me to keep me informed as he said he would.
July 5 – I chatted online with an Azuga representative and was told that my situation would be escalated to a higher level and that I would be contacted by phone by a different representative. A few minutes later, my phone rang, and I was told that there are a handful of participants throughout California unable to get their device paired. Lucky me.
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It is important to note that Brad Diede, ACEC California’s Executive Director, is also participating in the Road Charge Pilot Program and his installation process was much simpler –
“After I installed the unit per Azuga instructions, I had to make one call to ask why I could not get on the website to see if my connection worked. The problem was that I was in the country, out of good cell service for the Verizon network. I was told to remove and then re-insert the unit, then take a short drive. After that, I called again and the Azuga representative confirmed that I was connected and that they were tracking me. Now I can log onto the website and see my traffic. Oddly, when I log into the site and look at the map illustrating where I drove on my commute, it looks like it was not completely accurate.”
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July 6 – I am still not connected.
July 7 – Despite my frustration, I now have a front row seat to exactly why the State of California needed a pilot program. If I am one of a few in a pilot program of 5,000 people whose information cannot be collected, imagine the scale of tracking and problem solving the accurate mileage collection of millions of drivers on California’s roads. Hopefully, we can figure this out soon and I can start participating. But it is worth remembering that California is a very large state and that new programs – despite the very best of intentions – always have kinks that need addressing and the state needs to be cognizant of the problems that could arise once a program is brought to scale.